Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Strictly as athletes, Rose and Vick merit return to professional sports

“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies - it is the first law of nature”-Voltaire

LAKE WORTH – Earlier this week, it was reported that two great athletes who were banned from their respective games would be allowed to reenter the world of professional sports.

First it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was reconsidering the decision banning baseball great Pete Rose from the game. Rose was expelled from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on baseball games.

Reinstatement would allow Rose to be eligible to be voted on by the Veteran’s Committee for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While Rose was never convicted of the actual crime of sport betting, he nevertheless was tossed by Major League Baseball as an unsuitable character.

The National Football League also announced that it was conditionally reinstating top quarterback Michael Vick after he served a 20 month Federal prison term for his major role in an illegal dog fighting enterprise. Because of the conviction, Vick was suspended from playing in the NFL and incurred over $200 million in losses in salary and promotional fees.

Professional sports will ban a player for life or impose lesser sanctions for infractions that not only are criminal in nature, but break rules, ethical codes or exhibit other inappropriate behavior that is deemed to threaten the “integrity” of the sport.

Criminals can be and are granted either pardons or clemency by the President of the United States (under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution) or state governors. In the world of professional sports, which have their own corporate rules and regulations, it is often up to the sole discretion of the Commissioner of the sport to allow a player back into the fold.

Both Vick and Rose are plain and simple great athletes. While they may not be exactly role models for students or great candidates to be your son in law, they nevertheless should be allowed to reenter the world of professional sports and be part of their respective games.

In context of playing a professional sport and being inducted into a Sports Hall of Fame, great athletes should be judged foremost on their athletic talents first and foremost, not their character flaws or even their criminal transgressions outside the playing field. Criminality or unethical behavior should only be considered if they break a rule or a law that pertains to their actual playing on the field (like taking steroids to enhance performance).

The moral fiber of a professional athlete exhibited outside the game should not bar them from playing sports. What a player does off the field or after his career is over should not have an effect on his job or standing in the sports world. While some professional athletes make a lot of money, they are still simply human beings, not saints, who have the same character flaws as their fans. Sometimes, they make big mistakes.

In this day and age, it is ridiculous to hold professional players to the same high moral standards as religious leaders or leaders in our community. The bar is raised way too high for these athletes in terms of turpitude.

In Rose’s case, the decade’s long ban was overkill. Rose is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, living baseball player whose achievements are still unprecedented. His betting did not have any influence on his team’s performance while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds and he was in fact never convicted of sports betting. He should have been inducted in the Hall of Fame a long time ago.

In Vick’s case, he committed a heinous crime against animals and paid the ultimate price, both by going to prison and in terms of losing a tremendous amount of salary and other income. He has agreed to be mentored, to go to counseling, and to perform other rehabilitative acts to get his personal life back on track. He did his time and deserves to be playing football again (maybe not for any team named after an animal :).

A number of different standards for criminals are considered for a Presidential pardon, including how the petitioner has conducted himself in general while and after serving his sentence, the seriousness of the crime committed, acceptance of responsibility and showing of remorse, and the need for relief

If these standards were applied to Vick and Rose, they would surely qualify for a pardon.
Both men have expressed remorse and more than paid their penalties for their transgressions. It is time to forgive them. They are still sports giants and deserve to get both the recognition for their great athletic abilities and to be part of their respective games again.

After all, baseball and football are still basically just games.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A moment of Town and Country solitude on July 4th

“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind”- Albert Einstein

MONTICELLO – It’s July 4th. I’m at a picnic table out front of my mother in law’s bungalow at the “Town and Country” Bungalow Colony in Monticello, NY.

It is early afternoon. It is cool, sweatshirt weather and I feel real comfortable. The wind is blowing and the leaves of the large maple and oak trees in the colony are rustling and whistling. Down a slight hill to my left, there are three robins slowly hopping in tandem along the newly mowed grass, pecking for worms.

I have nice memories of this place. My aunt Blanche, when she was single and first started her career as a teacher, lived here. The place, both inside the bungalows and out, looks basically the same now as it did then in the mid-1960s. Being here is like being in a time warp-except that the surrounding neighborhood, which was nice when I was a kid, is seedy and decrepit now.
Town and Country is a now a vestige of a better yesterday on the “little mountain” of Monticello.

It is very quiet here. You could not tell it was July 4th but for some American flags that are planted near some of the trees and pasted up in the windows. While there are a number of grills outside the doors of the bungalow, they are covered-there are no hotdogs and hamburgers being cooked today at Town and Country. My mother in law tells me that the snowbirds are all resting up for the big show in the new clubhouse tonight.

There is something about coming home here, no matter how rundown Monticello has become over the years. The Village of Monticello is where I was born and where I made my some of my best friends for life. It is where I grew up and later returned to live, to practice law, and start a newspaper. It is where I met and fell in love with my wife, the probation officer, in the Village Court (I am on now lifetime probation) and where I had the honor of representing its residents as a County Legislator.

I have this illogical, strong attachment to Monticello and despite living in dynamic South Florida for ten years, I can’t shake it.

Monticello was once the epicenter of the famed Borscht Belt. As tourism declined over the last 30 years, the middle class and businesses moved out of the village and it has become very poverty stricken, gang ridden, and blighted.

When I lived here, I always wanted the already decaying Village to rejuvenate, to join the rest of the growth taking place in adjacent counties that linked their existence to commuting to the metropolitan NYC area.

Now that I am a little older, I am glad Monticello did not become yet another suburb-despite the despair and poverty that has encompassed it and the lack of any intelligence and vision of those now in control of its destiny.

While Monticello itself is for the most part a slum, parts of it and the areas surrounding the village are still very beautiful and country. Yesterday, I went with my son on a drive on a country road in the appropriately named Town of Forestburgh. We drove to a secluded waterfall that I had discovered years ago near where the author Stephen Crane lived. We hiked down to the base of it and I sat there on a large flat rock between two trees for about a half an hour, listening to the rushing water that drowned out all other sounds around the river. All my troubles dissipated at that moment. I felt peace.

The Catskill Mountain woods always have had a calming effect on me, but now that I don’t live near them, I relish the short interludes of such tranquility I find in them.
I told my son yesterday that it was important in life to find quiet places where you can go and really think in a deep, reflective manner about life, to try to gain and maintain the proper perspective of your existence. I don’t have that now in hot, crowded South Florida. I have to come here for it.

When I was growing up in the village near several bungalow colonies, I never understood the allure of my country village to city people. At this moment at the old “Town and Country” bungalow colony, surrounded by tall trees and robins feeding, smelling the fresh cut grass, feeling the cool summer breeze, I now understand.

The Catskill Mountains are still as magical as they were in the days of Rip Van Winkle. Sitting here, I find there is still peace and beauty in Monticello. This village will always have a strong attachment to my heart. I will always consider and call Monticello my home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Beware the pissed off Pachyderm

“Anger is one letter short of danger.” ~Author Unknown

LAKE WORTH-Last night, I had coffee at a nearby Dunkin Donuts with my friend Dave.
Dave is an affluent retired Republican businessman. He is your classic American success story. He built a small family business into a multimillion dollar operation and eventually sold it, guaranteeing the financial future of his family.

Dave has a nice middle-class lifestyle and is not extravagant in any sense. He lives in a modest home, drives a mid-size car, and once or twice a year takes a nice vacation with his wife. I would label Dave a fiscal conservative with a moderate social bent, a typical moderate Republican.

If you want to categorize someone as a loyal Republican, you would think of Dave. He is one of those people politicians love. If Dave believes in a candidate or a cause, he will make generous contributions and volunteer his time and services, asking nothing in return but a thank you at the end of the campaign.

When I meet Dave, we usually talk politics, sometimes for hours at a time. Dave is one of the brightest people I know and I highly value his opinions. In terms of politics, he is extremely grounded in his assessment of events and issues.

I had anticipated that we would be talking about the upcoming Senatorial primary in Florida and other races last night, but Dave began the conversation with words that surprised me.

“I am really angry.”

“You’re not the angry type. What are you angry about?” I asked.

“I’m just totally disgusted with the party. They just don’t get it.”

Dave told he was not happy with the lack of change taking place in local, state, and national Republican parties. He stated that they continue to be extremely ineffective in taking on the Democrats in power and in making the party stronger, both locally and nationally. “It’s just SOS,” he said.

He then expounded on his anger, citing how recent events in Washington and the lack of effective opposition by the Republican Party to the bailouts and stimulus package had really hurt him.

Dave is a bondholder in GM and stands to loss a tremendous amount of money because of the GM Bankruptcy. As part of the proposed Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan designed by the Obama administration, GM bondholders will forfeit all but a small fraction of their investment in the bonds.

If the GM Bankruptcy Court approves the proposed settlement, Dave told me he will lose a big chunk of his life savings and most of the disposable income from interest paid by the bonds that made life very comfortable for him and his wife in retirement- it is also the money he used to make generous contributions to the Republican Party and its candidates.

“What really bothers me is that the Republicans did not offer a real alternative to the whole situation,” Dave added.

“Dave, you did not see it coming?”

“Of course I did. But when I called my broker last year, he insisted the bonds were a “solid” investment. He made me feel stupid for questioning an investment in GM, a bedrock American company. I should not have listened to him and followed my instinct.”

I told Dave he is not alone, that most Americans now wake up every morning pissed off that their lives have been permanently changed in a very negative manner. “We are all angry.”

I also told Dave I’m disgusted that the Republican Party is not truly rebuilding and instead is still exemplified by moral hypocrites like Governor Sanford who continue to hurt the image of the party.

“There are no fresh ideas, no new Republican ideology to fit today’s circumstances. Worse, there’s no real fight going on,” I said.

I told Dave we need new leadership, like a Jack Kemp, to step up to promote real, practical free market alternative solutions to get people back to work and fix our credit, healthcare, and the housing situations. So far, nada.

“Instead,” I said, “we still have morally superior conservative throwbacks like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich touting antiquated ‘conservative’ dictum and at the same time filling a dangerous vacuum of leadership that is leading the Republican Party down the road to permanent political insignificance.”

We both took a moment to reflect and finish our coffee. Dave then replied:

“I totally agree. They will be traveling that road without me from now on. I get several calls a day for contributions from the Party and I ignore them now. Like I said, I’m pretty angry and disgusted. I got other things to worry about now.”

This week's Kurlykomments Tweets on Twitter:

  • When is a smart,moderate Republican going to step up and claim the mantle of the Republican Party? NO MORE SANFORDS!
  • Danny Choi should stay in military-don't ask, don't tell just plain stupid & violates civil rights-Truman integrated-Obama should tolerate.
  • Wanna bet Madoff does not get maximum sentence today?
  • Dana Milbank was absolutely right on CNN today calling out the fake press question to Huffington Post lackey by Obama "press conference"
  • Sick of fanatics calling for excommunication of fellow their beliefs rather than what Palm Beach Rush says to do-enough already.
  • You know what is wrong with this country? We care more about a perverted singer's death than the radicalization of economy & health care.
  • Sanford's wrong was to leave SC w/o telling anyone where he was, not hanging out eating empanadas in Argentina after his wife threw him out
  • Gov. Sanford is scheduled to appear on jon and kate plus 8 to join jon on a hike to a strip club
  • Home prices still falling. Massive foreclosures have ruined pricing in housing markets. Time for banks to stop and work out longer amorts. from web
  • Hiking in mountain woods is ultimate way to gain perspective in life-Gov. Sanford should complimented on hike away from gov't stimulation.